I have always wanted a world that is devoid of injustice and exclusion. It's an aspiration that I share with many of my friends and I'm often frustrated that we have collectively failed to bring this about. However, what frustrates me most is not our collective failure, but my own inability to live up to my aspirations.
The day we met, I had the opportunity to reach out and make a connection but I initially faltered. I found myself intimidated and began to make the usual stereotypical assumptions based on your appearance before we had even spoken. As a black woman growing up in a male-dominated and predominantly white society I know what it feels like to be judged on appearance and excluded because of people's beliefs. And yet I found myself momentarily falling victim to the same fear and ignorance for which I have berated others and suffered emotional wounds.
I actually want to thank you for helping me to be my better self by taking time out to talk to me and sharing your humanity with me. Many of us still have difficulty with anyone who is different from those that we have become accustomed to. People who look and think like we do, people who get us the way we get them. However, by speaking to me and about your journey I was able to empathise and see you for more than the initial image with which I was presented, an image that I was unaccustomed to seeing in the context of my everyday working environment. I realize that this is both wrong and unfair and I feel ashamed that momentarily I was unable to see beyond a stereotype.
The temptation when you are treated in a way that makes you feel lesser is to disengage or exclude yourself from wider society. I understand how this may feel safer than rejection and having to continually earn acceptance where for some it comes as standard. I am asking you to resist that temptation and give society the chance that it has denied to you and others like you on so many occasions. I know it's uncomfortable but unless everybody gets uncomfortable, things won't just stay as they are they will get worse. It will get worse because unfortunately our differences and our fears have always been a potent way to divide and control us.
This doesn't have to be our script, we can write our own story if we want a different outcome than the one to which we have become accustomed. I can't speak for everyone in my demographic any more than you can speak for everyone in yours but let's start talking to each other and see where that takes us.
There will be honest and open conversation, different points of view and we probably won't agree, but let's keep speaking because we will find common ground and common cause. When we reach that point where everyone is contributing to the conversation then we can get used to everyone being allowed to contribute to meet the challenges of our society. The uncomfortable truth is that we actually will need everyone to contribute for the better future we all want, as our current divisions are unsustainable. I want to do my part by inspiring others to do theirs to break down barriers, as uncomfortable as it may be for them. So, I suppose I'm asking, if I can get uncomfortable and break down some barriers, will you join me? What do you say?
HuffPost UK has teamed up with television presenter, broadcaster and author June Sarpong, ahead of the launch of her book Diversify: Six degrees of integration, to highlight and champion the economic, social and moral benefits of diversity.
Throughout this week we will be hosting personal stories and opinions from June, as well as the inspirational and influential people who helped inform the book and project. To find out more visit Diversify.org.Suggest a correction